Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Road Ahead

i knew we were reaching the end of the metaphoric road. the signs were clear – reduced dependability, moodiness, dread at every interaction, the groans of discomfort that accompanied even the mildest request. each day together felt like it could be our last, saturated with the chronic anxiety: “will we make it? and what happens if we don’t?” i feared for the future, which exceedingly looked dim, hopeless and unavoidably real.

and at that final moment when the wheels stopped turning, i felt no sorrow. only a strange calm as i sat motionless and looking ahead, parked somewhere near fairfax and pico. sunday night, 10 p.m., hearing the death knell ring from afar. i put my forehead on the steering wheel and studied the dashboard, mileage: 165,955. i stepped outside and looked up at the sign: street sweeping monday morning. i would get a ticket.

Mo pulled up beside me in his ride, Juice wagging her happy tail in the backseat. i slide in back with my pup who cheers me with a face licking. “well?” he asks. “that hunk of shit is dead and i’m not dropping another penny on fixing it. they can tow it to the junkyard for all i care. i’m buying a new car tomorrow.”

and that’s what i did. i bought a car. this car. the very next day, i walked alone into a dealership after work, test-drove the car, spoke with the sales dudes, wrote a big check with an unsteady hand, and bang, i drove off in my new ride.

it’s a volkswagen jetta, in case you couldn’t tell. i went with a jetta because no one else in my generation drives one. actually, i chose it because it wasn’t a soulless, nondescript car like the civic or corolla, and american cars, of course, are uniformly out of the question.

but the truth is i had been researching the jetta for about a month and had pretty much decided it would be my next car. great reviews all around and cute to boot. i love me a good european engine and given that i couldn’t afford the luxury mercedes of my dreams, the still german and cozy jetta, which is small enough to park in hollywood and zippy enough to take to SF for the weekend, worked on every level.

it was used, very gently, a 2005 edition with just 20,000 well-maintained miles, bought from enterprise, which sells its cars after renting them. inspected, certified, still under manufacturer warranty with roadside assistance, financed through my work’s credit union for a no-haggle price well below blue book.

i felt mighty proud of myself as i drove off the lot, my eyes slightly misty at the thought of my conquest (and upcoming monthly payments). i had driven into adulthood finally with this, my first real car purchase, after years of enduring my parents’ hand-me-downs. i thought of the dead saab, lonely in the junkyard after 16 years of service to my mom and then me. yeah, whatever, i bought a friggin car!

my chariot is semi-loaded – charcoal grey with a grey leather interior, 6-CD changer, dual airbags, lojack, power everything, automatic 4WD, 2.5L gasoline engine, 5 cylinders and a bunch of other technical things i can’t comprehend. (who the hell knows what “tiptronic” is?) but best of all, it still has new car smell, baby.

driving is brand new. i had a joker grin the entire drive to work this morning, smiling dumbly at other jetta owners. this is the first car i’ve had with a CD player and nice sound system. (Mo has taken to singing “mr. roboto” around me – just like in the commercial.) this is the first time i’m the one volunteering to drive. this is the first time i haven’t been worried about taking my car on a freeway. this is the first time i won’t mind sitting in LA traffic. this is the first time i'm taking the long way home.

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